Standing up for London's employment spaces

MQT on 2014-09-17
Session date: 
September 17, 2014
Question By: 
Nicky Gavron
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will you fight the Government's proposed expansion of permitted development rights that allow for the loss of London's offices, and new rights allowing for the loss of warehousing and other light industrial uses?


Answer for Standing up for London's employment spaces

Answer for Standing up for London's employment spaces

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Nicky.  Yes, I have to be clear.  I obviously support a number of changes the Government is making to the wider planning system.  I am ‑‑ 

Nicky Gavron AM:  You do or you do not? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ likely to object to this proposal, the one that you are worried about, because we need to protect London’s industrial space.  We think that the London Plan policies, which I know you have studied in detail, already enable councils, where appropriate, to release surplus industrial land in a way that is already adequate.  We are setting out our concerns to the Government and suggesting how that could be managed.  The gist of this argument is that London cannot lose too much office space or too much employment space.  I am looking at that very hard.  I am sure you will have sight of our response when it goes. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  So far, so good.  Just to be clear, are you then committing to saying to the Government that it should not allow the loss of employment space without it going through the planning system, or are you just picking and choosing amongst the different employment spaces? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will send you the text of the letter when we have it, but I believe we are going to be objecting actually to the principle of allowing too much of this stuff to be released.  It is not just the exempted areas.  We are not just doing it bit-by-bit.  As you remember, we said the Central Activities Zone (CAZ), Tech City, Canary Wharf, the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea were already exempted from this provision.  We want to go further.

Nicky Gavron AM:  They were; no longer.  The exemptions are now removed.  You realise that, do you not? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Sorry.  Those are the exemptions that we put in.  We want to go further and make sure, as I understand it, that there cannot be a wholesale loss of such premises. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  Yes.  I am not sure how much you are on top of the detail.  What I want to say is that this a tremendous threat to London’s economic recovery.  What is at stake now is every single office space, whether big or small, every light industrial space, every single warehouse.  These are the existing jobs and jobs of the future.  They are all under threat.  The hope value will go up.  How do you think it will impact on your constituency?  I do not mean your London-wide one.  You have two now, have you not?  I mean your Uxbridge and South Ruislip one.  How do you think it will impact on them?  The wholesale ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Just to go back, what you are right to say is that the current exemptions that we secured - the CAZ, Tech City, Canary Wharf, Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as I said - are now under threat.  That is one of the problems we face.  The point I was trying to make is that we generally think that this approach is wrong.  You ask about Uxbridge and South Ruislip ‑‑ 

Nicky Gavron AM:  You are going to say that? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are opposing it generally. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  All employment space should go through the planning system? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We want councils to have the ability to vary this and to take decisions based on local economic need. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  Hillingdon has said that Uxbridge and South Ruislip have one of the largest in London land markets for offices, industrial space and warehousing.  It is part of one of the largest complexes and your constituency would really be impacted.  

I just want to say that you have always said you have great influence at Westminster.  You stood on that in your manifesto; that was one of your main grounds.  When the Government 15 months ago proposed that it was going to put in temporary - which it has have now taken away and they are now going to be permanent - permitted development rights for office to residential, you had a few exemptions.  You are now threatened with losing those exemptions. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We are. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  You did not stand up for the two-thirds of boroughs who also wanted exemptions in addition to those areas, including Hillingdon.  I would say that you do not have a very good track record in getting influence in the Government.  My final question is ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Hang on.  This is Nicky Gavron who normally berates me for failing to deliver enough housing in London.  You seem to have abandoned that this week, mainly because we are about to build a record number of homes, the greatest number of homes for 30 years or something like that.  You have jumped that criticism.  It is certainly true that in some cases ‑‑ 

Nicky Gavron AM:  What are you talking about?  We are talking about London’s economy now. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, and in some cases it makes good sense for some boroughs to convert from office from residential in order ‑‑ 

Nicky Gavron AM:  None of us have any disagreement with that. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ to satisfy the housing need that you rightly identify.  However, we also think that this can go too far and that you can lose economic activity space that is absolutely vital for London.  I am making the representations that you describe and we will see how we get on. 

Nicky Gavron AM:  I see.  I hope you get better results as a prospective parliamentary candidate  than you have as Mayor of London. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am sure I am glad for your support, Nicky.  I can assure you that we will work very hard to ensure that we get the right policy for London and the right policy for all local councils.